|Select your language|
Turtles Released at Cat Tien Get Second Chance at Survival
Once destined for the soup pots of China, a few lucky turtles will get a second chance at life thanks to the efforts of concerned wildlife protection authorities and conservationists.
Last week, 175 turtles representing five native species were released at various locations within Cat Tien National Park. The turtles were initially confiscated last year by the Nghe An Forest Protection Department. They were subsequently transferred to the Cuc Phuong National Park's Turtle Conservation Center (TCC) in December 2004, and quarantined prior to their release.
The five species that were released included the yellow tortoise Indotestudo elongata, the black marsh turtle Siebenrockiella crassicollis, the Malayan box turtle Cuora amboinensis, the giant Asian pond turtle Heosemys grandis, and the yellow-headed temple turtle Hieremys annandalii. The yellow tortoise lives in open forest areas and edge habitat. The other species are semi-aquatic and were released in wetlands, small ponds, and along the Dong Nai River.
All of Vietnam's 23 tortoise and freshwater turtle species are critically threatened by hunting and illegal trade. Wild populations of turtles have rapidly declined since the mid-1990s when the turtle trade with China reached its peak, and an estimate of one to eighteen tons of turtles were crossing the Vietnamese border into China each day. Today, many of Vietnam's most common turtle species are now considered rare, and much of the turtle trade consists of animals being smuggled through Vietnam to China from Laos and Cambodia. In China, most turtles end up in the soup pot or are ground into powder and used in traditional medicine.
The team releasing the turtles in Cat Tien
Black marsh turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis) juvenile taking its first steps in the wild
Elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) hatchling
Turtles are special creatures. They have evolved with a unique form of protection, a hardened shell protecting their bodies from most predators. In nature, turtles are most vulnerable in the early stages of their lives, as eggs or newborn hatchlings. Turtle eggs and juveniles are readily preyed upon by a wide range of predators including small carnivores, rodents, birds, and even other reptiles like monitor lizards. However, if a newborn turtle can survive the dangerous egg and juvenile stages of its life, and grow to a sufficient size where its shell becomes strong enough to protect it from most predators, its chances of survival will improve remarkably. Some of Vietnam's turtles may live to more than 100 years old. In nature, the stability of wild populations depends upon adult turtles reproducing for many years to compensate for the loss of eggs and hatchlings.
In a modern world, adult turtles are not safe to reproduce for many years, and a turtle's hardened shell does not protect it from the new human “super-predator”. Moreover, humans do not collect just a single turtle to feed their family, but will collect as many as they can and transport them great distances to markets. Clearly, this has upset the natural balance resulting in widespread declines in wild populations of many turtle species.
The Cuc Phuong National Park Turtle Conservation Center (TCC) was established in 1998 as part of an effort to promote awareness and enhance protection of Vietnam's native turtle species. The TCC works closely with provincial Forest Protection Departments and receives turtles that have been confiscated from illegal traders. Efforts by the TCC have also focused on breeding some of Vietnam's most critically endangered turtle species in order to release offspring back into the wild. Last week's turtle release was the fourth time since 2000 that the TCC has returned turtles to the south of Vietnam and released them at Cat Tien National Park. The release was carried out with support from the Humane Society International.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Bui Dang Phong